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Monday, July 03, 2006

Axing Singapore's Oldest Bodhi Tree?

As reported on the SaveOurRoots' website, "On 20th January 2003, URA issued a compulsory land acquisition order to acquire the plot of land belonging to JLS as part of URA's redevelopment plan for Circle Line Stage 3 construction. If nothing is done, both JLS and the Bodhi tree will have to make way for redevelopment in 2007."

The Bodhi tree (scientifically known as Ficus religiosa) at Lorong How Sun, located in the premises of Jing Long Si, has been verified by Nature Society and National Parks Board to be more than 100-year-old, with a girth of approximately 8.5m and its height is about 30m. It was in fact recommended to be preserved as a Heritage Tree.

Heritage Tree expert, Wong Yew Kuan also mentioned that, "The roots of the Bodhi tree and JLS have become so intertwined that saving one means that you have to save the other and any land development at the tree's location has a high likelihood of causing soil movement and undue strees to the tree roots."

From JLS' website, there is some interesting feedback about URA recalling of the temple's land. As quoted below...

"The Temple land in question does not affect the proposed conversion of the neighbouring 40,000 square metres state land into residential use. The Temple land also does not affect the on-going MRT CCL Stage 3 construction taking place in the vicinity. In fact, no other residential buildings and the other religious buildings in the vicinity are subject to the land acquisition except this Temple!"

Which led the author to further question...

"Why is it that only the Temple land is being acquired to optimise land use, whilst all other buildings, a number of which are much closer to the MRT construction vis-a-vis the Temple land, are left alone?"

So why is URA taking back JLS' land and not others'? How is a plot of land of estimated size of two basketball courts and rather a distance away from the future Bartley MRT useful to URA for MRT CCL stage 3 construction?

From the map of the street directory, we can clearly see Bartley Christian Church and Ramaksishnan Mission Temple & Boy's Home are much nearer to the future Bartley MRT station. It certainly seems to make more sense to extend the Circle Line there or the plot of empty land beside Millennia Institue. It's really strange that URA chose to bypass Bartley Christian Church and Ramaksishnan Mission Temple & Boy's Home, the empty land beside Millennia Institue, Millennia Institue and the private semi-detached houses near JLS and "aim" right at JLS.

We know that Bishan MRT is having Circle Line extension now, but we don't see URA taking back Junction 8 Shopping Mall or the nearby HDB blocks or condominium for construction, do we? If URA is in need of land for the Circle Line, why is URA able to afford keeping the surrounding buildings and also build a new library beside the extended Circle Line at Bishan, but "unable" to spare JLS and its tree? The equation doesn't seem to work out.

Even if JLS' land is for residential development and not for Circle Line development, a rare century-old tree in this modern concrete world should be spared.

On the other hand, if a 75-year-old angsana tree along Braddell Road was spared for construction of roads and had a normal 3-lane road split into two to accommodate it, why can't URA consider some alternative as well for JLS and its tree? Likewise, National Parks Board did a road diversion and drainage system to preserve a more than 80-year-old Angsana tree along Upper Serangoon Road.

We are sure URA and the relevant authorities will be able to come up with a better solution to accommodate and not damage JLS and its tree with their future development. It would be thoroughly disappointing if this is not so.